For 17 years, Ashby’s life has been ruled by the man she calls “Poppa,” her mean drunk of a stepfather, Garrett Devereaux. Rarely, she would get a glimpse of the woman her Momma once was — the beautiful, carefree Marie Boudreaux, a cherished only child from a prominent Catholic family in New Orleans — before she got pregnant; before she was exiled to the backwoods of North Carolina and bound, through a deal made by her prideful father, to a marriage with a man who belittled and beat her.
Momma was powerless to protect Ashby and her twin brother, Danny, from the wrath of Garrett’s words, fists, and belt. At school, Ashby kept to herself and did her best to hide her bruises and despair.
But now, on her 17th birthday, life seems more unbearable than ever. Danny is gone. Momma is in a fog — doped up on the pills Garrett feeds her. And Garrett has been visiting her tiny bedroom with an increasing, terrifying intensity. Yet, unknown to Ashby, 17 will be the year of her rebirth — and the beginning of a wonderful new life. However, it will take a bloody battle, a daring escape, and a whole lot of hardship, cunning, and courage to get there.
In her gripping debut novel, Means To An End (Two Harbors Press; August 2013; $16.95 Paperback) Kendall author Elizabeth Romero introduces Monique Moreaux, who transformed herself from a victim — the downtrodden, timid Ashby Devereaux — into a strong, confident, and brilliant woman sought out by detectives for her keen insight into crimes against the vulnerable. Marking the first installment in the Redemption Series, psychological thrillers set primarily in New Orleans, Means To An End uncovers the roots of Monique’s drive to protect and avenge battered women and children, while unraveling violent crimes and mysteries of its own.
Set in 1985, Means To An End opens in the midst of Ashby’s terrible, unbearable home life. When Garrett’s sexual molesting culminates in rape, with a shattering outcome, Ashby finally finds the strength to defend herself — with a knife. Urged on by her Momma, Ashby flees from North Carolina, with a burning destination in mind — New Orleans. Once there, she knows she’ll find her brother, Danny, who ran off four months back and, to her aching disappointment, she hasn’t heard a word from since. In New Orleans, if her dreams come true, she might also meet her grandparents and see the lovely white columned house where Momma grew up.
Traveling as Monique Fontaine, a pretty name borrowed from a kind stranger, Ashby arrives in New Orleans to encounter a sometimes harsh, yet always colorful and exciting reality. Despite its dangers, Monique quickly feels right at home in this big, bustling city of diverse people, delicious food, and exotic experiences. To have a place to sleep and earn enough to eat, Monique takes a job as a humble “cleanup girl” at Ms. Blanche’s house — a brothel. With her long, shiny black hair, long legs, and striking figure, she could easily make more money as a dancer, the other girls tell her. But scrubbing floors suits Monique fine. Haunted by her memories of Garrett, she recoils in horror every time a man looks at her, let alone touches her.
While minding her work and her own business, Monique attracts the attention of the highly respected Judge Moreaux. When Ms. Blanche sends her on an errand, she meets this refined, handsome older man — who seems like a true gentleman and genuinely caring. Gradually, Monique begins to open her heart to Bradley Moreaux. Just as she dares to believe that she could escape her past and be loved, Monique gets chilling news. An investigator has arrived in town — looking for Ashby Devereaux.
Will Ashby/Monique be able to find her beloved twin Danny before she is caught and arrested for her stepfather’s murder? Can she trust Bradley with her secrets? Or is the judge another man destined to betray and abandon her?
Keeping readers riveted until its greatly satisfying climax, Means To An End marks the start of a thrilling new mystery series starring a brave, resilient, and fascinating woman.
Elizabeth Romero, a strong and determined Southern woman like her leading character, was born in Florida and grew up in Louisiana. Married and divorced at a very young age, she made a life for herself and her children, armed with an entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity, in the field of real estate. Her interest in writing started with reading as a child, when books would whisk her away to wonderful places.
In 2010, she retired to Florida to write full time. She lives on a lake in Kendall with her canine friend, Charlie. Means To An End is her first novel and introduces Monique Moreaux, the victim-turned-heroine protagonist for a series of psychological thrillers.
Romero will be doing a talk and book signing on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m., at the West Kendall Regional Library, 10201 Hammocks Blvd.
She also will be doing an event to promote the book on Oct. 19, 7 p.m., at Books & Books in Coral Gables.
For more information, visit www.elizabethromerobooks.com